Live-baiting can often produce bites from the biggest blue marlin in the neighborhood. This is important if you’re fishing in a tournament where catching numbers of smaller fish on dead bait or lures won’t net your team the big payday at the end of the weekend.
There are many different ways to rig live bait, but the following method is one I have used quite often all over the world. It will work for nearly any live bait, especially those for targeting marlin. For this live bait rig, we generally use a light leader for our bait-catching rigs, so I make sure to have a landing net on board to land the bait from the water. I quickly remove the bait from the net and turn it upside-down, cradling it like a football in my left hand and arm (I’m right-handed, so reverse this if you’re a lefty). By turning the fish upside-down, the fish becomes disoriented long enough to get the hook positioned properly on the nose of the bait.
At this point, the rod and reel should already be rigged with the leader and circle hook already attached. If I am blue marlin fishing, I generally will use 300- or 400-pound-test leader. With a snap swivel at the end of my double line, I’ll use 29 feet of leader. But if we’re using a wind-on leader of 22 feet, then I’ll use 7 feet of leader crimped to a barrel swivel, not a snap swivel. I use a 22-inch piece of 130-pound-test Dacron line, doubled with a double-overhand knot to make a loop that is secured to the hook with a cat’s paw knot and a half hitch. I use a split-eye needle connected to the Dacron (if a split-eye needle is not available, you can use a standard closed-eye needle with a short bit of floss attached to the Dacron loop with a slipknot for easy removal once it’s through the bait’s eye socket).
With the live bait upside-down and hopefully being calm, I insert the rigging needle through the top part of the eye socket and pull the Dacron loop completely through. I disconnect the needle and put the point and barb end of the hook through the loop and spin the hook and loop a few times. I slip the point and barb back under the twisted Dacron and the head of the bait, then deploy the bait back in the water as soon as possible. When marlin fishing, we usually pull two live bait at a time. If I catch the bait from a big school, I’ve found it’s better to get a short distance away from the school before putting the bait in the water. Many times, sharks seem to be closer to the school of bait than the marlin are.